Local News

Caddies at Olympia Fields, Idlewild selected as Evans Scholars

Golf caddies Rodney Branch III, a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, and Michael VanHootegem, a senior at Marian Catholic High School, have been selected as 2023 recipients of the Chick Evans Scholarship covering college housing and tuition costs for four years.

To be selected, Branch and VanHootegem had to meet the Western Golf Association’s four scholarship selection criteria: a strong caddie record, excellent academics, demonstrated financial need and outstanding character. 

Currently, a record 1,100 caddies are enrolled at 22 universities across the nation as Evans Scholars, and more than 11,800 caddies have graduated as Evans Scholars since the program was founded in 1930 by famed Chicago amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans Jr.

Rodney Branch III
Branch didn’t know much about the game of golf. His dad gave him a quick lesson on different ways to hit a ball. He said he decided to caddie at Olympia Fields Country Club because “it’s a good opportunity to meet people.” 


His mom would get him to the course early for morning rounds, or he’d try to get out on the course with mid-day golfers. Branch said over the two years he’s caddied the golfers  usually ask him for their desired club, but  one golfer took his advice to use a gap wedge “and the guy almost holed it from, like 80 yards away.” He was very appreciative of Branch’s suggestion.

“Caddying, you can combine so many things, like exercise, nature, conversation. Golf can help build all those skills: being a better person, learn life skills from other members. And going caddying can really change your life,” Branch said.

At H-F, he is a member of Scholastic Bowl and Econ Club. The 17-year-old son of Thea and Rodney Branch Jr. of Glenwood, plans to major in economics in college.

Michael VanHootegem

VanHootegem’s parents are golfers, and his mom suggested he try for a caddie position. He’s been caddying the past two years at Idlewild Country Club in Flossmoor.

All caddies “are instructed to do the same thing, but we’re all a little bit different, our style is different on how we do our job,” he said.

VanHootegem, of Flossmoor, said he’s a shy person, and he remembered “going out there the first time on my own, I was too scared to even shake the hand (of the golfer).” But over time, he got into a rhythm and found that golfers “will help you and tell you what to work on.”

He’d be at the club at 6 a.m. In summers he could do a morning and an afternoon round.

This past summer, VanHootegem organized Caddies That Care. It was an effort to get kids from Special Olympics out to teach them the game of golf at the golf range.

“It was a very fun event and it’s fun to see them enjoy a sport and try,” he said. He’s expecting he’ll organize a second Caddies That Care event this summer.

VanHootegem said: “I can’t think of a better job. There’s just so many perks to it. You don’t work long hours, you’re getting exercise, your paid well, you get to meet people and make connections.  You can’t do that in any other ordinary job.”

At Marian Catholic, Van Hootegem runs track and has competed at the state level the past two years. This year he’ll compete in the 400-meter hurdles. The 18-year-old son of Charlene VanHootegem and Kevin VanHootegem is deciding between engineering or business for a college major.

News by email

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

Free weekly newsletter

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.
Most read stories this week